I was perusing this article written to moms of one or two children from a mom of five. As I read it I was reminded of my own mom’s life, raising six children in one farmhouse on 15 acres of Michigan soil. I remember the moms of one or two kids, eyes like saucers as we passed them in the grocery store, asking one of two questions:
1) Are they all yours?
2) How do you do it?
And Mom laughed.
She might not remember it, but a lot of times she laughed when she replied ‘yes, they’re all mine’ (though she probably wished she could send a few of us back). She didn’t say it was easy and she didn’t say it was hard; she didn’t condemn their one-childness and she didn’t complain about us. She laughed.
We all laughed. Most week nights meant dinner as a family at 5:30 PM, when Dad’s boots stomped in the doorway to shake off the sawdust from that day’s building job. Sure, there were dinners were I was tied to my seat till I finished the beef barley soup, or there were lectures toward those whose attitude discolored the air around the dining room table; but we also laughed.
Six kids is a lot. It’s a lot of responsibility, money, time, investment, energy and emotion. I can’t even imagine how much it took just to raise myself, since I put up enough trouble for both myself and my ‘good’ second sister who learned from my stellar example. But when I look back on what my parents did, and if I could describe our house in one word, it would be laughter.
Our first year married, Josh and I had an exciting time as we discussed colors, furniture and decorations. But we both knew that a home is not made of its location or layout. It is made of who we are. A home can be spacious and beautiful and so, so empty. It can be so selfish, so hollow in its endeavor to present itself as godly that those who come see right through its walls into the void that should be its heart. Anyone can buy or build a house; it takes God to put joy in it.
Joy isn’t easier with two kids or harder with six. It can be as difficult to have joy as a newly married couple as it can be when you have six children bursting out the sides of your home. We can have everything we prayed for and struggle to have joy; we can lose a loved one and struggle to have joy. Joy is not circumstantial; it transcends circumstance. My mother had and still has a crazy life with two kids being schooled at home, plus an almost full-time job. But my family still laughs, and they laugh together. That is what I remember.
Josh and I love to laugh, too. But laughter is more than a reaction to amusement. We are most free to laugh when we are at peace.
A home cannot have joy without peace. They are friends; they go hand in hand. Perhaps that is why they are side by side in Galatians, when Paul lists them in the fruit of the Spirit: “Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness..” (Galatians 6). Those words were written in the transom of our farmhouse kitchen. Mom painted them when Dad first built the house. The other transom had our family tree, with our names on each branch. Is the fruit of the spirit of YOUR family joy and peace?
What is the spirit of our home? The spirit of our home is what we create it to be. Lack of peace with our loved ones inhibits our joy. Growing up, my siblings and I never doubted that our parents would be together. We had complete peace and unity on that front. We also knew that for the most part, mom and dad agreed; when they disagreed, they made a point of reassuring us of their unity, working through the struggle together. Because they were confident in and at peace with their positions in our family, we had joy. We laughed!
Some of you don’t like the idea of children because of how you grew up. You didn’t like your parents’ marriage so you demean the idea of marriage in general. I would challenge you to change your view. Your marriage and your children do not have to be what you knew.
When we smile at our future (Proverbs 31) and go in expecting all the goodness God can and will give when we align our lives rightly, we will find all those gifts DO exist. Our marriages can be beautiful and unified; our children can be godly and a blessing; our families can be a shining light in the next generation.
But we should laugh while we build that future. We can have joy whether we are in the midst of a rising career, just married, or expecting our first baby. As Nancy Leigh Demoss says, “Anything that makes us need God is a blessing.” (Read more about this here). Sometimes I need God to give me joy in my work, while caring for littles, while I am cleaning the bathroom, or during a difficult confrontation with a friend. But as I laugh I find that life seems less serious, I take myself less seriously, and I realize that this isn’t all there is. There’s another side to this coin where there will be no more tears and stresses, and I can smile at that future.